Students find excuses to avoid summer reading assignments

Kevin Killeen/Philip Solari
Editor-in-Chief/News and Opinion Editor

Walk down the halls of Webster Groves High School and ask students where they went this summer, whom they dated, what the biggest party was – and they’d all have an answer.

Ask them what books they read, and very few would know what to say.

“Summer is time to get away from school, not read for school,” said sophomore Sam Kemper.

Although summer reading is usually a small percentage of the student’s grade, many students find excuses over the summer not to read. Between sports teams, family vacations, jobs and camps students sometimes don’t have the time to read.

“It’s a joke,” said senior Caleb Cowin. “I don’t see the point. Kids want to run and play and have fun in the sun. There’s no time for reading.”

Some students feel even though they’re doing their summer reading, they are learning very little in the process.

“A lot of it is just boring literature that just gives an illusion that we’re learning,” said senior Sam Rooney.

Other students choose to rely on online study guides, like Sparknotes.

“[Sparknotes] helped me put into words some of the themes I found in the book, it also helped me catch things that I missed after reading the book the first time. I think it’s a good resource, as long as you read the book at the same time,” junior Joey Wheeler said. “I felt a little dirty afterwards, but I felt more prepared to explain the book.”

Teachers, however, feel they can typically spot the students who actually read the material.

“If I’ve designed quality lessons and assignments, that should reveal who understands the material,” said English teacher Sarah Gray.

Teachers can assess students all they want, but having mandatory reading assignments over the summer hasn’t proven to be the best way to get students to read. However, “The idea is to get kids to read,” said Gray.

According to English teacher Adam Conway, whose wife teaches English at Kirkwood High School, they’ve developed a new strategy to interest students in reading over the summer.

Last year, the Kirkwood English Department gave students a bookmark consisting of 20 books the staff recommended to be interesting. No mandatory reading assignments were given to the students.

When the students returned to school this year, they were surveyed about which books they read over the summer. Students appeared to read more, Conway said.

“People want stuff to do over the summer, but when it’s mandatory, people tend) to push against it,” said Conway.

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